One Hundred Days and Counting

volleyball by Nathan Rupert flickr

Safety tips for outdoor summer exercise

By Janice Enloe, personal trainer and running coach, RUN Oak Park and Weights and Measures

“A summer’s sun is worth the having.” ~French Proverb

As citizens of the third coast, where “one hundred days of summer” is more concept than reality, we Oak Parkers tend to be exceptionally efficient at making the most of the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

We garden, barbeque, and hold our block parties whether it’s sunny or cloudy, hot or cool, humid or not. We go to the Farmers’ Market during driving rainstorms, watch fireworks on a sweltering soccer pitch swarmed by mosquitoes, and sit on lawn chairs bundled up and shivering while the kids play T-ball.

Summer also means leaving the gym and taking our workouts into the great outdoors. Runners and cyclists share the parks with baseball, soccer, and ultimate Frisbee. Oak Park’s tennis courts have waiting lists. Our sidewalks are crowded with neighbors walking dogs and babies.

All that, and a visit to Hole in the Wall, is summer in Oak Park.

As we embrace the rest of the season with our outdoor fitness programs and late summer vacation days, it’s important to respect the danger of heat-related illnesses. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke can be prevented and may affect even the best-conditioned athlete. Here are three tips that will help you use every last dog day of summer safely.

Check the temperature. Before you head out, check the heat index. That’s the combination of temperature and humidity that describes how the temperature feels. A heat index chart can be found at www.nws.noaa.gov/om/heat/index.shtml. If the index is at or over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, consider rescheduling your training session for another day or moving it to early morning or late evening to avoid the hottest period of the day.

Get acclimated. It takes a week or two for the body to adjust to exercise in the heat. If your plan is a vacation spent playing volleyball on a hot beach, gradually increase the length and intensity of your time on the court over several days.

Hydrate wisely—drink to your thirst during exercise.  The risk of dehydration and the role it plays in heat illness is well known. But according to Tim Noakes, South African sports scientist and author of Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports, drinking guidelines of 1.2 liters per hour during exercise were influenced by the beverage industry and the creation of sports drinks, not science. New hydration recommendations—drinking to thirst—published this July in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, support recent research findings associated with the dangers of exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH) or overhydration. EAH occurs when the body has too much water relative to its salt level. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, dehydration can impair exercise performance and contribute to serious heat illness while EAH can produce grave illness or death.

The bottom line? Listen to your body, learn to pay attention to your thirst and drink accordingly. If you find you need some help, check out the Portman Calculator at www.portmancalculator.com for hydration and nutrition suggestions based on activity, duration, exercise intensity, and body weight.

Summertime in Oak Park goes by all too fast so get outside and create the memories you’ll talk about in February. Respect the power of extreme heat, stop all activity and get to a cool environment if you feel faint or weak. And don’t forget to say “hi” when you see me in line at Hole in the Wall!

Photo: Nathan Rupert/Flickr